A. The Henry's Knob site was used to mine kyanite. Kyanite is a mineral that is a form of aluminum silicate. One of its uses is to make the tiles that keep the space shuttle from burning up during re-entry. Mining for kyanite took place there from 1950s to the 1970s.
A. The mineral was mined out of a large pit quarry. The mine ore was ground up and the kyanite was separated from the other minerals in the ore, most likely by flotation, where the kyanite was skimmed from the top. The remaining minerals, called tailings, were allowed to dry in ponds and piles.
A. The tailings, which look like regular sands, are made up of unwanted minerals from the mined ore. Unfortunately, because of the grinding process used to extract the kyanite from the ore, tailings are more likely to enter the environment. One major concern is acid mine runoff.
A. The rocks that are high in minerals, such as kyanite, are often higher in sulfur-containing pyrite, also called fool's gold. This golden-yellow mineral can break down in the environment, especially in the ground waste rock and mine tailings. This sulfur creates a dilute sulfuric acid as a result of contact with rainwater.
A. Acid mine runoff is typically most harmful in streams and lakes. If it gets into water, it will add dilute sulfuric acid to the water, stressing fish and aquatic plants. It would also be harmful to your skin with prolonged exposure and give you a rash.
A. Mine tailings pose two potential hazards. Like sulfur, other minerals can leach out of the tailings. If the tailings contain minerals such as manganese, lead or cadmium, the leachate from the tailings can impact nearby surface water and groundwater.
Another problem with the tailings is nothing will grow on them because there is no organic matter to support plant life. Unless tailings are stabilized, there could be problems with erosion. They can become windborne and be deposited in surrounding areas.
A. Although the appearance is similar to sand, the composition of tailings differs from sand. As such it is not a good substitute for sand, especially in children's sand boxes as it may cause skin rashes. It is not recommended for making concrete.
A. There are two private owners of the main areas of the former mine and tailing ponds.
A. A company called Commercial Ores mined the site during the 1950s and 60s. Combustion Engineering bought Commercial Ores in 1965 then sold the site in 1971. Since then there have been several property owners. ABB bought Combustion Engineering in 1990 but did not have any operations there.
A. Because of ABB's connection to the site through Combustion Engineering, EPA identified ABB to perform an investigation of the site to determine the nature and extent of the acid mine runoff and minerals that have entered the environment as a result of previous mining activities. The Work Plan for the site is on file at the Clover Public Library along with other documents pertaining to the site.
The investigation is taking place in four steps, all of which are now complete.
A. ABB picked the wells near the site to be sampled, following the prior wells selected by SCDHEC. We have sampled these wells and have notified homeowners of our findings.
A. Although the Henry's Knob site is not a Superfund site, EPA requires ABB to follow the Superfund process as we perform the investigation. This involves extensive sampling, testing and analysis and reporting the findings according to specific EPA guidelines and regulations.
A. ABB estimates it could take up to four years.
A. After the EPA finishes reviewing and approves the report, ABB will prepare a list of cleanup options for review and discussion with the community. From that, the most feasible method will be selected.
A. Manganese is a naturally occurring metallic element that resembles iron but is not magnetic. Manganese, like iron and aluminum, is found in minerals that occur in rock, soil and water. Manganese is an essential trace nutrient necessary for all forms of life and can be found in a variety of foods we eat every day.
More information can be found on the CDC website about manganese here: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=23
A. We believe the manganese in your drinking water is naturally occurring and is coming from the natural bedrock formation.
However, we are trying to determine if the mining of the mineral kyanite in the 1970s and earlier may have caused the manganese to leach into the groundwater. As of now, our studies suggest this is not the case. The manganese we are finding is occurring naturally in the area around Henry's Knob. We will have more information after the studies are complete.
A. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an advisory stating that chronic exposure to high doses may be harmful. They are dependent on the way people are exposed to it, their age at the time of exposure and the individual's nutritional status. For example, chronic exposure is typically found in environments where people work with manganese on a daily basis, such as steel workers or miners in manganese mines. It has been reported that these people have had neurological problems.
We don't know at this time how the concentrations found in the wells will affect human health as there is virtually no data for this instance.
A. Yes. The work ABB conducted shows that levels found in soils are safe for children to play. The manganese found in wells is fed by groundwater, not directly by surface water.
A. The elevated levels of manganese found in the wells was above the EPA's Secondary Maximum Contaminant Level, which is a guideline value established for the taste quality of the water and its ability to stain laundry.
There are no conclusive studies that determine the effects on health by the manganese concentrations found in the wells. Our findings were sent to the EPA for determination of the level at which manganese would be considered unsafe for human consumption.
A. A company called Commercial Ores mined the Henry's Knob site during the 1950s and 60s. Combustion Engineering acquired Commercial Ores in 1965 then sold it in 1971. Since then, there have been several property owners. ABB acquired Combustion Engineering in 1990, long after the mining by Combustion Engineering ceased.
Nonetheless, the EPA identified ABB (the parent company of Combustion Engineering) as the "successor of interest." The agency asked ABB to conduct an investigation of the Henry's Knob site and the surrounding area to determine the nature and extent of the contamination.
As the housing market now is weak and property values nationwide are feeling the impact of the sub-prime mortgage crisis, it is difficult to determine to what degree home values in the area have been impacted by the presence of elevated minerals in domestic wells.
If it is determined that your property was impacted as a result of mining activities conducted at the Henry's Knob site, ABB will work with federal and state agencies to resolve problems associated with mining activities at this site, which should restore any lost value due to elevated minerals in residential wells.
A. ABB was not involved with the actual mining. It acquired Combustion Engineering long after mining operations by C-E ceased. As such, ABB was not part of the problem, but is working with the community, and state and federal officials to provide a solution.
We will not know if the Henry's Knob mine caused any problems with your water until our studies are completed.
A. If the elevated levels of metals / minerals are found to be the result of past mining activity at Henry's Knob, we will advise the appropriate federal and state agencies, who will determine the next course of action.
A. We won't know until we finish our studies and federal and state agencies determine the next course of action. However, in two instances, ABB provided bottled water to residential homes. Elevated levels of manganese found in wells are of concern to the homeowners and to ABB. ABB will provide bottled water whenever and wherever it is needed.
A. We need to study the site using a process that is established by the EPA to understand what is there, how it got there and where it is going. This process has many steps. The EPA needs to review and comment on our findings as we go. This takes time, but also assures that we are identifying and analyzing everything, and that the EPA agrees with our findings.
A. We believe that the water is safe for your pets to drink. Nonetheless, if ABB is providing you with bottled water, you are welcome to give the bottled water to your pets as well. We are not aware of any scientific studies that examine the health effects on domestic pets from manganese in drinking water. Generally, animals are less sensitive than humans.
A. Yes. The levels of manganese in the water are not a problem for watering vegetable gardens.